A different kind of survival training
January 28, 2014
Soldiers, Sailors, Airmen, Marines and civilians line up, anxiously awaiting to ride one of the Army's finest attractions. This ride, however, requires helmets, body armor, eye protection and gloves.
These trainees from the Operational Contract Support Joint Exercise 2014 were waiting for the High-Mobility Multipurpose Wheeled Vehicle Egress Assistance Trainer to experience the effects of a rollover in a HMMWV and a Mine-Resistant Ambush Protected vehicle to develop the skills necessary during an egress or rollover situation.
"The purpose of the egress is for familiarization during an actual rollover," said Master Sgt. Babette Bell, vehicle rollover noncommissioned officer in charge with OCSJX-14. "The trainees are taught how to get out of the vehicle safely, get all of the sensitive items out, how to take care of any injured personnel and to perform security around the vehicle."
The HEAT allows teams to train on the necessary steps needed to survive a rollover. The HEAT is a training device that uses the body of a HMMWV or MRAP mounted to a machine that gives it the ability to rotate 360 degrees, allowing people to experience what it would be like in a rollover. It reinforces the importance of wearing seatbelts, the feeling of being disoriented and the efforts required to evacuate a vehicle.
"While the trainees are in the HMMWV during the rollover they become disoriented, which affects their reaction time," said Bell. "They also have to ensure their equipment is secured in the vehicle: any loose equipment could become a hazard during a rollover."
"This was my first time going through the rollover training. It was really educational," said Senior Airman Alex Wolf, operational contracting support specialist with 45th Contracting Squadron, Patrick Air Force Base, Fla. "I learned the importance of communicating with all the troops, making sure everyone is on the same page. Through proper communication, we were all able to exit the vehicle safely and perform our security checks. Afterward, I felt like our entire team were professionals at rollover training."
As the trainees hear people shouting "Rollover! Rollover! Rollover!" from the simulation, one could see the nervousness in some faces as they were waiting to load up for their turn to be flipped over in the HMMWV. For others, the training was like a carnival ride, experiencing fear and excitement simultaneously.
"Being in the HMMWV rollover was like being on a rollercoaster," said Wolf. "It was weird. You became disoriented. I didn't know what's up, what's down, what's left or what's right. It really disorients you with all the stuff hanging around in there."
Some trainees were old pros at the rollover, having done the training several times in pre-deployment. For them, it was not the equipment that made the training, it was the company.
"I've done the HEAT trainer numerous times, but working with different people from the United Kingdom, Army, Air Force and civilians was a great training opportunity for me," said Marine Sgt.
Christopher Clarke, operational contracting support specialist with Headquarters and Service Battalion, Quantico, Va. "It was an eye opener for me, being my first joint operations exercise, to see how the different cultures operate."
Clarke's diverse team of a British officer, an Air Force senior airman, a civilian and an Army officer were able to accomplish the task at hand with ease. The team's variety shows how OCSJX-14 is a joint contract readiness exercise -- participants include service members from four of the U.S. military branches, civilians and international Soldiers -- brought together from every corner of the globe.
"As the gunner, my team was able to get me out with no problem," said Clarke after their session. "We were able to get out of the vehicle as a team pretty quick and pull security with no issue."
"OCSJX-14 gave us the opportunity to train Soldiers, Marines, Airmen and Sailors to help them overcome fear and panic in a rollover incident," said Army Sgt. First Class Portia Hall, a rollover instructor with OCSJX-14. "There were a few who were not familiar with the system, but once they went through a couple times, they felt confident."
Hall added that after going through the HEAT a few times, reacting to a rollover becomes second nature for anyone, giving the trainees the confidence and know-how to survive one of the worst kind of vehicle accidents.
It is also the type of experience that bridges cultural gaps.
"It was great that we had an opportunity to train professionals from all branches. It built confidence and esprit de corps among everyone training," said Hall. "Throughout the training, everyone was laughing, talking about their experience. They wanted to keep on training."